The COVID-19 pandemic is so out of control that typically mild-mannered Gov. Kate Brown has asked Oregonians to call the cops on their neighbors who are celebrating Thanksgiving in large numbers.
As part of her executive order that places a "freeze" on the state for two weeks, including the Thanksgiving holiday, Oregonians are not to gather indoors with more than six people from more than two households. (Brown also closed gyms and museums as well as bars and restaurants to all but takeout while urging people not to travel.)
Brown, a Democrat, came under withering criticism from business leaders and Republican elected officials for the impact the closures will have on the economy. But it was the prospect of law enforcement being deployed to homes that really riled several prominent Republicans.
"We are concerned with the violation of our privacy as the state police and local law enforcement agencies are being ordered to investigate and criminally charge Oregonians based on the number of people they invite into their homes," wrote Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer) in a Nov. 17 letter to Brown signed by 13 other elected officials. "Legality questions aside, with depression and anxiety levels at an all-time high, creating a new crime to visit your family only hinders those struggling with their mental health."
That letter was signed by half a dozen Republican state representatives, one state senator—Tim Knopp (R-Bend)—and a handful of local officials. Notably, many of them were the same officials alarmed this summer by what they saw as a failure by Portland police to crack down on leftist protesters.
"Data shows us that COVID has been spreading at private social gatherings, and we call on our fellow citizens to be careful and social distance when gathering over the holidays, but we cannot and will not support any attempt by any police agency to violate the sacred space of any Oregonian's home," they wrote.
Incoming Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith went the furthest, announcing she would defy the governor by gathering "as many family and family as I can find" for her Thanksgiving, telling Fox News in a subsequent Nov. 17 interview: "We do not need to be treated as second-rate slaves in our own homes." (One Salem wag remarked that the comment, widely condemned for belittling actual slavery, was the end of the shortest gubernatorial run in state history.)
So how many people is Smith actually having over to dinner?
WW contacted her, along with the state's top GOP figures: Post, Knopp, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, state Sen. Kim Thatcher (who just lost a bid for secretary of state) as well as U.S. Rep.-elect Cliff Bentz, the lone Republican in Oregon's congressional delegation. We asked each how they were celebrating Thanksgiving and with how many people.
Only Smith, whose office is nonpartisan, is willing to say she'll seek to defy the orders and common-sense public health advice. But she did not respond to a request for details on her plans. (Her work phone is disconnected and she didn't respond to an email.)
U.S. Rep.-elect Cliff Bentz plans a small dinner. "At this point they're going to be three of us," says Bentz, who is celebrating at home with his wife and her good friend's daughter, "and our two dogs and our two cats." Both his wife and the possible guest have already had COVID-19. "That leaves me," he says.
State Rep. Christine Drazan declined to comment through her spokesman.
State Rep. Fred Girod declined to comment through his spokeswoman.
State Sen. Tim Knopp is having "Thanksgiving at our home in Bend for six," he says. That's two households, including his son's family.
State Sen. Kim Thatcher declined comment. A spokeswoman for Thatcher said she's traveling.
State Rep. Bill Post: "My wife and I are going to a campsite in our little trailer. Real exciting. We've not done the big 'Thanksgiving' thing for several years since her parents passed away, as that was where we went before."